Guest musicians and vocalists, members and missionaries performed and delighted attendees of the 25th Anniversary Gala Concert commemorating the dedication of Ukraine for the preaching of the gospel. The concert, organized by the Kyiv Ukraine Stake, was held in the famous National Opera Theatre of Kyiv on Sept.17, exactly 25 years to the day when the Church was officially registered in Kyiv.

Elder Ivan Stratov baptized Valery Stavichenko, the first member in Ukraine, in the icy Dnieper (Dnipro) River in November 1990. By September 1991 a small branch of about 40 members existed when Elder Boyd K. Packer of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles dedicated Ukraine for the preaching of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Today there are 12,500 members and three missions. Ukraine houses the first stake organized in the former Soviet Union, as well as the only temple in Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union.

Featured performers at the gala concert were Igor and Vesna Gruppman, world renowned violinists. Igor, a native son of Kyiv, is principal conductor of the Orchestra at Temple Square and concertmaster of the Rotterdam Philharmonic Orchestra. Brother Gruppman conducted the gala concert orchestra for some of the numbers, while Sister Gruppman played the violin. They captivated the audience by playing a duet together.

Performances included numbers by the Orchestra of Kyiv Oblast Administration; a choir, joined twice by all the missionaries serving in the Kyiv Ukraine Mission; and numerous individual vocal and instrumental performances. Local youth dressed in native costumes performed dance routines after attending rehearsals for months in preparation for the event. Their youthful joy and excitement were evident in their dancing and singing. Projected images of the Church’s history in Ukraine accompanied the music and dance numbers.

“This was a truly outstanding event, even astonishing in its scope,” said Elder Bruce D. Porter, General Authority Seventy and president of the Europe East Area, after attending the concert. “It took place in the city opera hall, which was filled to capacity with 1,700 attendees, including distinguished guests, dignitaries and friends of the Church. This was a truly milestone event, which is hard for me to praise enough in words. That one stake accomplished this, with the help of the Area Public Affairs team, is a tribute to the talents of our members and leaders in Kyiv.”

The capacity crowd also included the Kyiv Ukraine Mission President Kenneth B. Packer and his family; Kiev stake President Kirill Pokhilko; Kyiv temple president and former mission president Frank Trythall and his wife, Sister Nancy Trythall; former mission president Howard L. Biddulph, former and current missionaries; members from Ukraine, Belarus and surrounding countries; and members of the Area LDS Public Affairs Office.

Prior to the concert, President Kenneth Boyd Packer, grandson of President Boyd Kenneth Packer, gathered missionaries and local members to recreate the original dedication. Sister Crystal Close, Purchase Award Winner of the 2016 LDS art competition and current missionary in Kyiv, created a painting of the event.

President Packer and his wife, Sister Cari Packer, feel blessed to serve during this momentous time in the history of the Church and country.

Mr. Andriy Yurash, director of the Ukraine Department of Religion and Nationalities, also said this is an important year. “Ukraine celebrates the 25th anniversary of its independence and at the same time, there is another great anniversary — 25 years of development of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints,” stated Mr. Yurash. “In my mind, these two anniversaries are bound together creating an unusual unity. We can hardly imagine this Church without Ukraine. We cannot imagine Ukrainian religious life without the LDS Church. … It is not just a simple coincidence; it is an important and symbolic coincidence that allows the establishment of freedom, liberty, and opportunity for every person and every religious organization to realize itself.”

Elder Porter congratulated participants and organizers and praised Ukraine. “Ukraine is ahead of many countries in regard to freedom of religion. You are blessed to live here and to have the opportunity to believe and worship ‘according to the dictates of [your] own conscience.’ Please remember how blessed you are.”

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